In the beginning — of both movies and books — is the word. Many classic Kiwi films and television dramas have come from books (Sleeping Dogs, Whale Rider); and many writers have found new readers, through being celebrated and adapted on screen. This collection showcases Kiwi books and authors on screen. Plus check out booklover Finlay Macdonald's backgrounder.
For this screen showcase of NZ visual arts talent, critic Mark Amery selects his top documentaries profiling artists. From the icons (Hotere, McCahon, Lye) to the unheralded (Edith Collier) to Takis the Greek, each portrait shines light on the person behind the canvas. "Naturally inquisitive, with an open wonder about the world, they make for inspiring onscreen company."
Launched on 5 April 1976, Winners & Losers heralded a new age in Kiwi screen drama. Indie talents Roger Donaldson and Ian Mune based their tales of success and failure on New Zealand short stories, after managing to negotiate funding from various government sources. Then the pair took the series to Europe, proving there was strong overseas demand for Kiwi stories. In the backgrounders, Mune recalls the show's origins. There are also pieces on its place in local screen history, and its 2018 restoration. Plus watch two video interviews on the series.
This excerpt from Holmes features a rare interview with author Janet Frame, filmed in 2000 to mark the release of Michael King's Frame biography, Wrestling with the Angel. Reporter John Sellwood visited Frame at her Dunedin home, along with King, who is also interviewed, and provides some valuable perspective on Frame's writing. Sellwood charmed Frame by playing the bagpipes, which reminded her of her father, but she is still a reluctant interviewee, who prefers to chat about lighter topics than reflect on her distinguished literary career.
Under the Covers was a spin-off series from TVNZ 7 book series The Good Word, compiling Finlay Macdonald’s 10 minute pieces on great Kiwi books into their own show. Each episode features three books and tells the story behind them via interviews, readings and archive footage. This episode featured Barry Crump’s A Good Keen Man, David Lange’s My Life, and — in this excerpt — Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River, the 1917 novel that some say was an uncredited inspiration for Jane Campion's The Piano. Sam Hunt provides a spirited defence of Mander's book.
In 2015 director Robyn Grace won the rights to adapt a story by bestselling Irish author Marian Keyes. Grace's short film boasts a top tier Kiwi cast, including Brooke Williams (The Almighty Johnsons) and Westside's Antonia Prebble. When heartbreak leaves Alice reeling, she finds comfort in the mystery of a beautiful missing shoe. But this Cinderella isn't counting on Prince Charming solving anything. Beautiful shoes and clothes (styled by Sarah Voon) abound. The film was invited to almost 40 festivals. Williams was named Best Actress at the Royal Starr festival in Michigan.
The last novel by Ronald Hugh Morrieson revolves around a freezing plant worker (Peter McCauley) in an interracial marriage. For this little seen movie adaptation, the role of an English remittance man was expanded in an attempt to cast Peter O'Toole (New Zealand-born Bruce Spence got the role). Morrieson's view of small-town Aotearoa is a dark one, as he explores racism, violence, suicide and blackmail. Bruno Lawrence contributes to Jonathan Crayford's jazz-tinged score, and features in the wedding band. The freezing works scenes were shot at the defunct plant in Patea.
Touted as the defining chapter of the trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies sees Smaug wreaking havoc from the sky, Thorin Oakenshield succumbing to dragon-sickness, and a climactic battle to dwarf anything seen in the first two Hobbit films. As Orcs look to the Lonely Mountain with their eyes on the treasure, dwarves, elves and humans must decide whether to unite and fight them off. The final Hobbit film arrived in cinemas 15 years after Peter Jackson first trained his cameras on Middle-earth — and made it clear that global blockbusters could come from New Zealand.
Scriptwriter Philippa Boyens has described Alice Sebold's bestselling book The Lovely Bones as "brutal, surprising, gorgeous". A tale of murder and how the victim's family and friends try to deal with it, the story is told from the perspective of the victim — 14-year-old Susie Salmon. For the movie adaptation. Peter Jackson and his Weta FX team engaged in more Heavenly Creatures style world-building, rendering an afterlife for Susie that "alters and shifts" with her mood. Time praised the film's "gravity and grace", plus Saoirse Ronan's BAFTA-nominated performance as Susie.
Kim Hill interviews Australian-born and British-based writer Clive James. They discuss the nature of intelligence and whether you have to be tormented to be really clever. James says he doesn't think so. He names scientist Stephen Hawking as the cleverest person he has ever seen, and playwright Tom Stoppard as the cleverest person he knows. James also tells Hill that he has no plans to ever retire (or "hang up his pen", as he puts it), and discusses his love of tango dancing.